As the ongoing debate on parishing continues, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the final proposed plans for the town at their meeting next week.
These final plans appear to somewhat answer critics who have consistently argued against changes to specific boundaries between areas of Swindon and the financial implications of the council parishing proposals.
As it stands the 16 existing parish councils cover just over 40 per cent of Swindon’s households, and previous plans from August this year would have seen the remaining 59 per cent split between four new parish councils; West Swindon, South Swindon, North Central Swindon and South Central Swindon.
However, the latest version of the proposals show the South Swindon area has been scrapped in favour of a much larger South Central Swindon parish covering six ward areas; Old Town, Central, Eastcott, Park South and joint wards of Walcot and Park North as well as Lawn and Badbury Park. This means only three new parishes are now planned for Swindon, with one large parish covering all areas south of the railway line.
Nythe parish will still be asked to take on the areas of Eldene and Liden, whilst Blunsdon St Andrew parish will be seperated to form a new St Andrew Parish Council separate from Blunsdon Parish Council.
The council hopes these parishing changes will reduce their costs across the borough before 2020, by which time their funding will have been slashed by over £30 million. The new parish councils would be asked to take on certain responsibilities from the Borough such as grass cutting, graffiti and litter management, with each parish able to decide initially how many of these services they are able to take on. As Swindon Borough Council seeks to reduce their reduction in costs by 2020, these services could also include management of community centres and libraries in the parished areas.
£3 million of transitional resources are to be made available to these new parish authorities to act as transitional funding, although increases to precepts will likely still be a key financial talking point.
One of the main concerns in August was that the Central South Swindon parish would incur a much higher precept due to maintenance of the retail centres in the area, which very much form the core of Swindon’s shopping and commercial offerings. The council had been in talks with local business representatives to secure a voluntary contribution of £400,000 to offset some of these costs, but it appears this could not be agreed. As such it has been proposed that Swindon Borough Council maintains its contracts in the town centre for maintenance.
Cabinet and the council will still have to approve a key point that existing borough councillors will be appointed to run the new shadow parish councils which will be actively taking on services from the council by April 1 2017. This will be followed the month after with elections for parish council members, which will be distributed as 15 councillors for the West Swindon parish, 15 for Central North Swindon and 23 for the larger Central South Swindon parish owing to the six wards this new area will cover.
Cabinet will now vote on the recommendations next week before the report is put before full council on 10 November.